Medicine before Science: The Business of Medicine from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment

By Roger French | Go to book overview
Save to active project

CHAPTER 6

The crisis of theory

All the order of teaching is troubled and the doctrine of Physick is endeavrd and learned altogether preposterously and confusedly, without any certain method. 1

With these words Jacobus de Back reported the confusion in the schools at the collapse of traditional natural philosophy. He had taken his MD in Franeker in 1616, when medicine and natural philosophy were still sisters, as they had been throughout the Latin tradition. 2 But by the 1630s not only were philosophers seeing a battle between Aristotelianism and the mechanical philosophy, but within medicine some of the major doctrines of Hippocrates and Galen had been shown to be wrong. De Back felt the pull of old loyalties and declared that he still belonged to the ancient physicians; but clearly they were going to need another re-evaluation to show that they still had authority in a changed society.

How had this crisis come about? Rather than retell a traditional story of a revolution in natural philosophy, let us look at its relation to medicine from the point of view of the Rational and Learned Doctor, who still wanted to be successful.

____________________
1
The Anatomical Exercises of Dr William Harvey ... with the Preface of Zachariah Wood . . . to which is added Dr James De Back, His Discourse on the heart ... London, 1653; the English translation is of de Back's original discourse of 1648. For a view of the economic and political crisis in medicine in London, see Charles Webster, 'William Harvey and the crisis of medicine in Jacobean England', in Jerome J. Bylebyl, ed., William Harvey and his Age. The Professional and Social context of the Discovery of the circulation, Baltimore (The Johns Hopkins University Press), 1979, pp. 1—27.
2
Scholastics such as Pietro d'Abano used the phrase, derived from the well-known commentary on De Sectis by John of Alexandria (as we saw in chapter 3): philosophia et medicine duae sorores sunt. It was a famous dictum of the medieval doctor: see Cornelius O'Boyle, 'Discussions on the nature of medicine at the university of Paris, ca. 1300', in John van Engen, ed., Learning Institutionalized. Teaching in the Medieval University, Notre Dame, Indiana (University of Notre Dame Press), 2000, pp. 197—227. It is part of the rational and learned doctor's message about the nature of his medicine.

-157-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Medicine before Science: The Business of Medicine from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 289

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?